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Enter these enchanted woods, You who dare.

Updated: 2018-04-26T02:02:03.606+02:00


Revisiting an Old Libyan Friend


In 2002, I wrote a tribute to my dear Libyan neighbour and friend, Najiyah. The Tripoli Post, which was the sole English newspaper in Tripoli at the time, published my story and I later put it on my original website. I decided to dust it off and post it on my blog. Enjoy!My Missing Link By: Therese Martin 'Khadija'I came to Libya in 1989 and for the first year lived with my husband's family. We had an apartment of our own, but it was in very bad condition and needed to be completely renovated. Finally in 1990 all the repair work was completed, and my husband dropped me off at the flat to clean things up so we could finally move in. It was a happy day for me. I was glad that soon we would be living in our own place. I hadn't been to the flat while the workmen had been there and things were quite a mess. Paint spills needed to be cleaned up and spatters of plaster were everywhere, not to mention the accumulated dust! I decided to open up the windows and balconies to let in some fresh air and sunshine while I worked. While opening the back balcony, I noticed a woman watching me from her window. I smiled and said "Assalamualaikum". I wasn't sure how my new neighbor would receive me. I'm American, and though I'd been in Libya for a year, I never had to deal with anyone besides my husband's family before this time. She smiled back and replied, "Walaikumasalam. Kay fahalik?" I expressed that I was fine and inquired how she was. "Qwise", she replied. She informed me her name was Najiyah and asked me mine. I told her my name was Khadija. She nodded and smiled and I went back to work. It was a busy day for me. Every time I would pass by the window or balcony, I'd see Najiyah. One by one, each of her six children came peeking out at me. All of them wanted to introduce themselves. Over the years Najiyah and I became very good friends. Her balcony faced mine and we visited while hanging the daily laundry. The two of us shared our favorite recipes, and she explained many things about Libyan culture. But most of all, Najiyah kept me informed about what was going on in our community. She told me who was getting married, and who had had a baby. If one of the neighbors were sick, Najiyah would share the news. She was my link with the neighborhood. While watching Najiyah's children grow up over the years, I added to my own family. Najiyah often had advice on how to raise my little ones. She was alert to what my children were doing, and quick to notify me if they were doing what they shouldn't. I always felt my home was safe with Najiyah nearby. She worried over my children and me as though we were her own. Najiyah became a special friend. One day Najiyah told me she had a small growth in her mouth. She wasn't quite sure what it was and planned to see a specialist about it. Over the next few weeks she was back and forth to the doctor. She was so busy getting medical care that I didn't see much of her on the balcony. Deciding to look-in on her at home one day, I found her in a very depressed state. She said the doctor thought it was an infection, but she believed that it was more serious than that, because her husband had decided to take her to Tunis for another opinion. When she returned from Tunis, it was with sad news. The doctors had diagnosed her with oral cancer. Everyone was very upset. I spent hours researching the subject on the Internet and urged her to have the tumor removed as soon as possible. Her husband quickly took her to England for specialized treatment. While she was away, the balcony became a lonely place. Najiyah's children were busy with their studies; thus her windows and balconies were usually closed. I would occasionally go to her house to ask her daughters for any news. The news was not favorable. As a result, Najiyah and her husband had decided to leave England and go to Tunis for treatment so they could be closer to Libya and their family. Everyone was worried. It just so happened that I'd be traveling to Tunis. I told Najiyah's oldest daughter that I planned to vi[...]

I'm going along with the plan


Yesterday Jenna and I went to get our haircut. We hadn't had cuts since before Hurricane Irma - we had been too busy with my mom's illness, going to the hospital and all that followed after she passed. Getting our haircut was wonderful therapy - we left feeling relaxed and good about ourselves.  

On the way home we made an unplanned stop at a consignment store that we go to from time to time. I don't know why I felt the need to stop there. When we went into the store I went directly to where they display the household things and spotted a beach/bath towel. I picked it up and saw that it was brand new. I didn't need one, but for some reason I felt compelled to buy it. I said to Jenna, "Let's go", but she wanted to look around. I wandered around the shop, but all I wanted was the towel. It was the weirdest feeling - I had to get that towel.

When we got home I threw the towel in the laundry hamper. I'd wash it later I told myself. I went to work and while I was there Jenna phoned. She was upset. My sister (who we've been having issues with) was at the house and Ibrahim said that he had seen her take a towel. At first Jenna thought that it was the towel I had just bought, but it turned out to be the old one I had been using. My sister said it was hers. Maybe it was, I don't know - I'd been using it for 2 years. "It doesn't matter Jenna. Let her have it. I have the one I bought today in the laundry hamper. Nothing she does matters". 

God looks out for people in mysterious ways.

My Mother


My mother passed away a week ago after nearly a month in the hospital and a week in a nursing home. She passed on the day of her wedding anniversary - my parents would have been married 58 years. I was blessed to be able to spend the last two years caring for my mother - so many wonderful memories to cherish. 

A memorial service will be held for my mother, Helen Godette Martin, on November 20th, 2017 at 11am at Blessed Sacrament Church in Seminole, Florida. Following the church service, a ceremony will be held at Bay Pines Memorial Cemetery where she will be interred with my father, George William Martin.

I Survived Irma!


It's been a busy week! First there was preparing for the storm, which included stocking up on water and food and making sure the hurricane kit had everything in it. As the storm approached Florida I made the decision to take my mother to a special needs shelter as she is on oxygen and has medical equipment that needs electricity - plus the shelters are built to withstand category 5 storms.In the end, my sister insisted that mom go to her house. At first I argued with her about it, but then after discussing it with my son we decided to let my sister take care of my mom during the storm. Actually, we were kind of surprised she offered, especially since we could count on the fingers of one hand the amount of times she's shown up in the past year. So off mom went on an adventure with my sister. I continued to sort out the hurricane supplies, while Adam and Jenna cleared the yard of all the yard furniture, planters, barbecue grills, garbage cans - anything that would blow around and cause damage. They even cleaned out the garage so Adam could fit his boat inside. Adam turned the canoe in the back yard over and filled it with water that  later might need to be used to flush toilets.  I was also busy with my city's Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). We organised the evacuation of the people with special needs. First we had to call them all to see if they still needed to be picked up (some had other plans and some had died or moved away since signing up for the service). As the storm got closer it was time to pick them up and bring them to the shelter. Without the help of the  county school buses and drivers the evacuation would never have been possible. It was an interesting experience. We evacuated people from all walks of life, mostly elderly in wheelchairs and walkers who live alone and have no one to look after them. Each bus had a driver and driver assistant, one firefighter and two CERT team members. Our bus picked up two busloads of special needs passengers and their belongings - some of them we had to help pack.One poor lady had four bags full of adult diapers. A little old man held his chihuahua on his lap and cried. A 98-year-old woman showed me a locket with her late husband's picture - all her kids have died before her, she has no one left. One woman brought a big cake with her to share with all the new friends she would make at the shelter. They all joked and said we should get matching Irma tattoos. One lady said she was finally happy to have something interesting to write in her diary. Overall it was a positive experience. I hoped they had homes to go back to once the storm was over.Irma gradually arrived. I must have had hundreds of people sending messages and asking if I was OK on Facebook. It was hard to explain that the sky was still blue and the sun was shining. The storm was downgraded to Category 3, then 2 and was moving about 9 miles an hour. By Sunday evening the winds started to pick up. Around midnight the power went out and by one o'clock Saturday morning the storm was hitting it's hardest. Soon after I lost mobile service. It was dark outside and impossible to know what was really going on - lots of wind and things banging around outside. I lay in bed listening to the power of the storm and finally drifted off to sleep.The next morning the electricity and phone service were still off, but the winds had died down. I was scheduled to do a twelve hour shift at my city's Emergency Operations Center. I dressed by the light of a flashlight. It was still dark as I opened the front door to see what things looked like outside. I could see the neighbor in his front yard with a flashlight. The old oak tree in his front yard had blown down. I called out to Adam to go see if anyone was hurt.  Luckily, the tree had fallen toward the street and the house was spared. The road was partially blocked on both sides of my street. Adam jumped in his truck to have a quick check of [...]

Eid Wishes


Wishing a safe and peaceful Eid to all who celebrate. 
May Allah accept your fast and shower you with blessings. 

End of May till the first half of Ramadan


I've been pretty busy the last few weeks. I'll try to fill in all the blanks with some of the pictures I took along the way. First I'll start by sharing my quick trip to the lovely Caribbean island of Guadeloupe. I was there last June and found myself back there again for a short work related trip. It took a while to get to Guadeloupe as there are no direct flights from where I live, so I spent a few hours in Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico might become the 51st state soon, at the moment it's a US territory. My cell phone worked there and they use dollars. My hamburger and French fries in the airport cost $25!Last year I stayed in an all inclusive resort... this time I stayed in a studio apartment. If I have to go back again for another short stay I will go back to the resort simply because it had a restaurant and I didn't have to go anywhere to hunt down a place to eat. But there were some bonuses to my accommodation. My little apartment had a view of a small cove with a lighthouse and I didn't have to deal with a tourists on their holiday. The weather was a bit hazy, the landlord said it was the result of desert sands that blow across the Atlantic from north Africa. Guadeloupe is a French overseas territory, people there speak French, the currency is the Euro and it's part of the European Union. I went to the supermarket and found pretty much the same things I would find in a Tunisian supermarket. I bought the makings for a Tunisian breakfast... bread, cheese, tuna, olives and some juice. They even had harissa, but I decided to get some spicy creole mustard instead. I had a nice relaxing breakfast on my little balcony overlooking the cove and watched the boats. After my work was finished I spent the rest of the day with friends. We visited an interesting museum, Memorial ACTe. I was quite impressed. The museum is a memorial to slavery and the history of the slave trade in the Caribbean. There's a lot to learn, you could easily spend a few hours there. One of my friends had some things to do that would take her to different parts of the island so she asked me if I would like to come along for the ride. Yes! I taught her a new phrase 'riding shotgun' and I explained it's origin. What a beautiful place! There is an active volcano on the island, but it hasn't erupted in forty-one years. Sugar and bananas are the main exports, the vegetation is lush, mangos hang heavily on the trees and passion fruit vines drip over everything. Butterflies, humming birds flit from flower to flower. Towards evening we headed to my friend's weekend home on the side of a hill overlooking the sea.  The view was breathtaking. We headed to her kitchen where she taught me how to make a popular Caribbean dish called Chicken Colombo and tender smoked Marlin drenched in olive oil, peppers, shallots and lime juice.Chicken ColomboSmoked Marlin My visit to Guadeloupe was much too short. It is definitely worth visiting as a tourist. I was told to watch for deals on flights from Norwegian Airlines which offers direct flights from New York for as little as $79 - and accommodation in Guadeloupe is reasonable too. The only thing I found expensive were the taxis, but you can rent a car for about $24 a day. Yes, I'm adding this to my list of places to revisit.Ramadan started a few days after my return to Florida and two days after that it was Memorial Day. I took my mother and kids to visit my father's grave. He's buried in Bay Pines National Cemetery. Every Memorial Day the graves are decorated with flags. It's really a sight to see the flags stretched out across the cemetery - there are over 38,000 graves there and each one has a flag on Memorial Day.Bay Pines National CemeteryDuring April and May I attended the Citizens Academy which was a seven week course that covered different aspects of my city. We learned about City Hall, The Department of Public Works, the library, the Parks and Recreation Depa[...]

It's Me....


I've always said that naming my children was harder than giving birth to them. Their names were important - more than likely they would have them all of their lives. It was hard to decide what they should be called. My name, or at least what I am called, has evolved over time. Officially, my name is Therese Martin, when I married my husband I decided that in traditional Muslim fashion I would keep my surname because after all, I only married him, he doesn't own me. Keeping my name meant keeping my identity. Since I was a child my family and friends always called me Teri or sometimes Teri-Anne. Therese was always kept for official things and that turned out to be quite useful. For example, if anyone ever telephoned asking for Therese, I immediately knew it wasn't friend or family and I would reply "Can I take a message?'  However, after I moved to Libya things changed and I became known as Khadija.The name Khadija needs a bit more explanation. When I became Muslim (in 1982) the mosque prepared a certificate for me and at that time asked me if I would like to choose an Islamic name as some people like to do so when they make this life changing event. I thought about it for a while and chose the name Khadija. I never had my name officially changed, but  I  began using the name after I traveled to Libya. Let me explain....Khadija is the name of Prophet Mohamed's first wife. She was a very successful and wealthy business woman and merchant. Her caravans equaled the amount of all the other caravans of the Quraish put together. The Quraish was a tribe comprised of 14 clans that inhabited Arabia and controlled Mecca.  Khadija was known by the by-names Ameerat-Quraysh ("Princess of Quraysh"), al-Tahira ("The Pure One") and Khadija Al-Kubra (Khadija "the Great"). She never traveled on her caravans, instead she hired others to trade on her behalf for a commission.  She hired Mohamed who was at the time 25 years old - this was before he received the Message. She was so impressed by Mohamed that she proposed marriage to him even though she was about 15 years older than him. When Mohamed received the Message she became the first Muslim woman. She remained married to him until her death 25 years later. He never married another woman until after she died even though polygamy was usual at that time. Khadija was a woman before her time - wealthy, successful, educated, married a handsome man much younger than herself, the first Muslim woman... What better name to choose?After I arrived in Libya I found that people had trouble pronouncing my name. When they called me Teri they rolled the 'r' and it sounded like the word they use when they are on a donkey and want to make it go faster - Terrrri! Terrri! So I tried Therese, but they mangled it and made it sound like they were saying 'idreese' which is the Arabic word meaning 'men'. That's when I decided that I would just have everyone there call me Khadija and it worked perfectly!Later on, I met another American woman in Libya who was also called Khadija - but she had taken it one step further and had her name legally changed to Khadija. Every time anyone in the expat community talked about either of us they would ask 'Which Khadija?" and if it was me the response would be KhadijaTeri. When I started my website (a few years before I started blogging) I called it Khadija Teri. I'll answer to Teri, Khadija or KhadijaTeri, but I still save Therese for formal occasions. Many Libyans know me as Mrs Khadija - the American woman that teaches English and does IELTS preparation courses. I have had hundreds of students over the years (something I am very proud of).This calligraphy that spells out Khadija Teri was made by a blogger called Libya Gharian... sadly his blog no longer exists, but I am honored that someone took the time to create this especially for me and I keep it on the sidebar of my blog. [...]

Ramadan Mubarak


Today is the first day of Ramadan. I have been looking forward to Ramadan for months. It is as though it is a respite from all of the world's problems as I plan to avoid watching the news and instead look inwards and focus on my spiritual life. I'm looking at it as time to recover from everything that has been thrown at me this year. A lot of prayers this month for myself and my family and many, many, many prayers for Libya and Libyans. 
Best wishes to all for a peaceful and safe Ramadan. 
Ramadan Kareem!

Almost like being in Libya


I came across a page that someone created on Facebook where they are uploading 360 degree images of Libya. So far it looks to be primarily from the Tripoli area, but hopefully the collection will grow. No mention is made on the page as to who is the creator. I think it's a fabulous idea!

I added the link to my Link List and a sample below. You can find the Facebook page here: 360 Around You

Click on the picture to go to the 360 image
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A Day Away


We took a day off last week to spend some time at the Rainbow River in Dunellon, Florida which is about a two hour drive from where we live. The water is a refreshing 71F  all year round. We swam and snorkeled and the kids went off in the kayaks to look for alligators - and found one! They said it was a small one, but I could hear a larger one downriver on the other bank where there was some tall grass growing. 

It was a lovely day. Sometimes you just need to get away for a while. 

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Some Updates To My Link List


Recently, I made a few updates to my Link List. I started putting together a Links List about 15 years ago. I come across so many interesting blogs, websites and news sources about Libya, when I find anything new I add them to share with my readers. A few of the links are in English and Arabic (or other languages) but the list is primarily sources about Libya that are in English. 

The list keeps growing and changing. I am calling out to my readers for a little help: 
  • Do you know of any links that are not on the list? Let me know and I will add them. 
  • Have you come across any of the links on my list that are broken, or pointing to the wrong place? Let me know and I will fix or remove them.
A few of my readers have mentioned that they have bookmarked my Links List page for easy reference. That's a good idea! You can find my Links List in the tabs at the top of my Home page, or find it here: Links List

Libyan of the Diaspora


Way back in 2007, I gave my friend Tara a kitten. We had just come back from the Nalut Spring Festival so it seemed only fitting that she name the kitten Nalut. 

Ten years have passed and Tara still has Nalut. After she left Libya she lived a while in New Mexico, then spent quite some time in Cyprus. Now she is back in New Mexico... but she is still very much a Libyan cat! 

Nalut... age 10, Albuquerque, New Mexico
The picture below is from 2007 - Nalut as a kitten on the day I gave her to Tara. Has it really been ten years? So much has happened and so many things have changed. I wonder if Nalut dreams of Libya like many displaced Libyans ... She is a diaspora kitty.



Thanks for stopping by. If you've visited before you may notice that I've made a few changes - don't be surprised if I make a few more. 

Please see the tabs above for my Link List and My Journal of the months that the internet was turned off during the February 17th Revolution (March through July 2011). There is also an Archive of all of my posts in the sidebar on the left.

Quality Time


Mom hates pizza, but she agreed to go have pizza the other day. She decided that she hated pizza after my son Adam came to the US in 2008 to live with her. She said he ate a lot of pizza... pizza till she felt it was coming out of her ears. Now she seldom eats pizza, but on this particular day she said 'Let's get pizza' so we did!Sometimes we eat out on the back porch. This particular day mom decided she didn't want to eat on a plate, instead she put everything in one bowl. Mom likes to eat on paper plates, but we had run out. Real dishes seem to annoy her for some reason. She drinks her coffee in paper cups too. When we were growing up we never used paper plates, but she insisted on us using paper cups when we were kids. She said they were more sanitary. Dixie cups... I always hated them!One day we decided to have sandwiches at the park. After we ate we had a walk, I pushed mom in her wheel chair. She wasn't sure where we were and that seemed to bother her a bit. Sometimes when I wear my scarf my mother thinks I am a Libyan woman that cares for her.  When I take off my scarf at home I am her daughter Teri again... but sometimes she thinks I'm my sister. I thought a trip to an antique mall would interest her. We found a section that was set up just like her mother's kitchen with all the old kitchen tools, gadgets, plates and cabinetry. Mom thought it was funny, but nothing else seemed to interest her. I liked a huge replica of a sail boat. Mom thought it was too expensive. I reminded her the point of the trip was to look and not buy. Mom hates window shopping. I think she went along just to make me happy. We bought nothing. It made me happy though.There are some lovely, well kept tennis courts nearby. The kids decided that they wanted to learn how to play, so I managed to find some rackets and balls and we headed out to the courts. Mom came along to watch the kids' attempt at learning how to hit the balls to each other. I took this picture of her on the bench. 'That's an old woman' she said when I showed it to her. She didn't realize it was her until I told her.Since Mom's surgery last December her dementia has gotten worse. Today the doctor prescribed some medicine that will hopefully slow it down. It won't make her better, but it should help by giving us more quality time together. [...]

Something Extraordinary Happened: It really is a small world after all


Before I went back to Libya last September, I noticed an advert in the local newspaper about a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training course. It looked interesting for more than a reason or two. Above all, I liked the idea of learning how to be prepared in case of an emergency. I wanted to do something for my community, to help others and meet people. Also, I thought that this would be a way to learn about civic programs that might one day be useful should Libya ever become peaceful again and needed to rebuild – maybe I could help in some way, or maybe I’m grasping at straws, but it didn’t really matter because that wasn’t my sole reason for becoming involved. I emailed to see if there was any space left on the course. Unfortunately, the course was full, so I asked to be put on a list for the next course. Then I became busy with travel preparations and my trip back to Libya so I shelved the idea for a while.After I returned to Florida I was notified that the next CERT training course would be starting. I attended the three days of training held at my town’s fire rescue department. Although the course was short, I learned an impressive amount. We also had the chance to meet team members from earlier courses, many of which were city council members. On the second day of training a lively and spirited woman came in and introduced herself. She turned out to be the mayor of my town; Mayor Leslie Waters, of the city of Seminole, Florida.It turned out that Mayor Waters has been a member of the Community Emergency Response Team for our town since it was initiated and is an active member of the team. She found a few minutes to chat with each of us. When she stopped to talk to me we found out that we had something quite extraordinary in common – Libya! It turned out that the mayor has been working on a project to train Libya’s first-ever women elected to city government. Due to the instability in Libya the workshops took place in Tunisia. Mayor Waters was in the process of planning her second trip out to work with the Libyan women. She gave me her card and asked me to get in touch with her so we could discuss the project. I was rather amazed that the mayor of my small town (population 17,830) would have a Libyan connection - and I think she was equally amazed to find me sitting in that training room at our local fire house!We emailed back and forth and ended up getting together over coffee after she returned from her second trip to Tunis. I arrived at the busy coffee/bagel shop a few minutes ahead of schedule and the mayor came in shortly after. It seemed as if she knew everyone in the shop as she gave a lively and enthusiastic greeting to many of the people there. As soon as she sat down she presented me with a souvenir from her trip to Tunisia and some information about the latest activities she had been working on for the city. Then she filled me in about her trip.Her assignment which was sponsored by the Woman’s Democracy Network (WDN), an initiative of the International Republican Institute (IRI) located in Washington D.C. and set up in Tunis by USAID-Libya. The purpose, was to help “empower women to lead” their City Councils by educating participants on how to be effective local government officials. These training forums focused on how to improve communications with constituents, to leverage social media, to network with other women throughout Libya, to set goals, and put an emphasis on the importance of developing an expertise with government issues. Photo credit: USAID.govOver 40 Libyan women took part in the first sessions held in September 2016. This initial conference was part of an effort to build and deve[...]



Mom's had more surgery since I last posted. All went well this time, and she is home recovering. We're mostly staying home and mom gets a bit stir crazy from sitting in the house all the time. Occasionally we go out, but we're pretty much limited to places that have motorized scooters because mom can only walk for a few minutes and then has to sit down. We have a wheelchair, but mom doesn't like to use it. She says it's low and she has to crane her neck upwards to see things. Apart from the scooter issue there is the problem that mom has difficulty hearing so that limits what we can do too. We try to keep mom as comfortable as possible. To make life a bit easier we got her an electric lift-recliner. She's been having trouble getting in and out of her chair so we hoped this would help. The only problem is that she hasn't been able to learn how to use the remote control for the chair. It has two buttons... up... and down. Push the up button and the chair puts you in a standing position, push the down button and you can sit down and recline with your feet up. Two buttons... simple right? Wrong! It's been nearly a month and she still hasn't been able to figure it out.  Regardless of how many times we show her, within a few minutes she will have forgotten. Dementia is so cruel!I found a large print word search (mom has vision problems) that I thought would keep her busy. She complained 'These puzzles are not like they used to be. I can't find the words!' I watched her try. She would read the word and then begin to look for the word in the puzzle. By the time she gets to the end of the first line in the grid she has forgotten the word. It makes her frustrated and she puts the book down. She tried quite a few times because she had forgotten that she had tried before - each time with the same result. Mom likes to talk on the phone, but making calls is a challenge. Today, my daughter sat down to help her dial the numbers. Mom called quite a few people. She called one of my sisters and asked how she was. 'I'm sick with a cold' my sister said. Mom replied 'Oh I'll let you go then. I don't want to catch it'. She called my other sister twice, having completely forgotten that she had called the first time. One call was to a family friend. When their voice mail picked up mom said 'Hey! It's your grandmother' We were entertained by mom's phone calls for a good part of the afternoon. Then it was time for mom to take a nap. Maybe tomorrow I'll take her to Home Depot to look at the flowers and plants in the nursery section. They have got good motorized scooters there. Then when we come home I will pull out some old photo albums and we can reminisce about the past. That will keep us busy for a while. [...]

LIBYA: 17th February Anniversary Six Years On


The following article was written in collaboration with my friend and colleague, Susan Sandover who is the author of the book ‘Libya a Love Lived a Life Betrayed 9/36’ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~Daily we (an American mother with a Libyan husband and a British Libyan widow) read, hear and see the ongoing tragedy and horror of the war in Syria and yet Libya barely warrants a mention in the British and American press. It seems as if the Libyans are the forgotten. Photos and video footage are seen periodically of migrants being saved in the Mediterranean but we have yet to read an article on the potential tinderbox situation in Libya.The 17th February marks the anniversary of the commencement of the fight to overthrow Gaddafi but will this date warrant a mention in the international media? Most likely NO. The war finished quickly in just 8 months. Today what remains is the daily episode of the Libyan Game of Thrones represented by an assortment of grey-haired men in their expensive suits with allegiance to either diaspora, area, tribe or a religious faction all vying for power. But what of the ordinary citizens of Libya? With 45% of the population aged under 30, the majority without hope of work, they are the dangerous forgotten. Consequently,  crime is on the rise and coffers from the old family loan system have long since dried up. The infrastructure that was failing under Gaddafi is now at crumbling point or virtual collapse. The morale of the people is so low that they too are beginning to join the thousands of migrants endeavouring to reach Italy and Europe by crossing the Mediterranean in the hope of a better future. Aside from tribal infighting, the cancer ISIS, whose roots had lain hidden during the Gaddafi era now has found its chance to emerge and spread its tentacles. Libya’s porous borders allowed pockets of IS to establish themselves in three branches in Libya; Tripolitania in the west (primarily in Sabratha), Cyrenaica in the east, and the Fezzan in the south of the country. Sirte has only recently been cleared of IS by forces backed by the GNA (Government of National Accord) and supported by the United States which targeted ISIS with over 500 airstrikes between August 2016 and January 2017. Although IS combatants were removed from Sirte, many Jihadi warriors managed to escape, disappearing into the desert. Will they once again go into hiding, waiting for the chemo therapy to end and then resurface? Libya’s marginalised youth and migrant Africans entering the country are all potential recruits and this needs to be recognised before the Libyan dormant bomb erupts, as it will, if help is not given to the country. Despite the abundance of problems facing Libya, some hope remains. Organizations, focused primarily on women and youth are emerging. On offer are empowerment workshops, training for the health sector, networking for entrepreneurs, as well as opening centres to provide services for psychological, social, legal and health problems. Reconciliation will only happen with concerted efforts from within Libya, as well as with help from abroad.By ignoring the ongoing situation and hoping that it will go away will only result in another Iraq and Syria disaster of horror, instability and further turbulence within the MENA region. Peace and reconciliation should be led by the Libyans hand in hand with the West so that Libya can be reunified and the IS cancer can be eradicated from the country. The alternative is unthinkable. The new President of the United States seems to believe that by building walls and banning Libyans from entering the United States that this will so[...]

A busy start to the year


So far 2017 has been a whirlwind. In my last post, which was about a month ago, I mentioned that my mother was scheduled to have surgery. She checked into the hospital as planned for what we thought would be morning surgery and home by the afternoon. Unfortunately there were complications. She had a reaction to some of the medicine that was used and went into anaphylactic shock. Her blood pressure dropped to almost nothing and then when they gave her other medicines to help with that her BP went sky high - her blood pressure was up and down, up and down. She also started to develop pneumonia. She was in ICU for two days while they stabilized her blood pressure, but to complicate things the steroids she was given caused her to go into steroid psychosis. Psychosis.... another word for crazy. She didn't sleep for 3 days straight. The whole time hallucinating that she was in Paris, in California, at a spa, there were water taxi's floating past the window and hundreds of dogs on the ceiling. Once she said there were hundreds of babies and quipped 'I don't even like children!' Her feet moved as though she were walking, walking, walking...she walked all over town, telling me she was turning left here and right there and asking 'Why is there a cow on the corner? The poor thing is soaking wet from the rain!' She folded her sheet for hours, folding, unfolding and folding again and again. I kept trying to bring her back to reality, reminding her that she was in the hospital. She didn't know who I was. At one point she thought I was a Jewish woman from California. She kept asking for people who had passed away; her sister, a neighbor, my brother. A few times she became very, very angry and violent, but mostly she was just agitated and wanted to be someplace or go someplace.   Throughout all of this she refused to use a bedpan and became incontinent. The nurse told me quite often there is no turning back once the elderly get this way. I insisted they put a potty next to the bed and got my mother to sit on it a little every day. I never thought I would be potty training my mother! Eventually the effects of the medicines started to wear off, but it was six days before she finally realized where she was and was able to recognize us. My mother is home now and is continuing to recover. We have a home health nurse and physical therapist coming to the house. She's back to a regular bathroom routine - thankfully! However, as soon as she gets well enough she will be back in the hospital for more surgery. This time the doctor has assured us that they will not be using the medicine she had a reaction to and they'll be taking all the necessary precautions to keep her well. When I asked my mother if she remembers anything from her hospital stay, she said no, nothing. We have videos of some of it and she was amazed when we showed them to her. I'm thankful that I was able to be here for my mother and praying that her next hospital stay will be uneventful. There are no water taxi's floating by the window![...]

Ending up 2016


The end of the year is fast approaching. When I look back it seems like it was a long year, but it passed so quickly. Since we got back to Florida it seems I have been running non-stop. First, there was Ibrahim to get settled in school. He's been changed to a different school, this time one that hopefully has a program suitable for him that will address his autism and ESOL issues. After a bit of a runaround, he finally started, but only a week before the Christmas break, so we won't know how things really go until he goes back after the holidays. Mom had a whole slew of doctor appointments, check-ups and tests scheduled for when I returned. Some of which had positive results, but unfortunately, there was the disappointing news from the cardiologist that an artery in her left leg has a blockage that needs to be cleared, so next week she is scheduled for surgery. I'm glad that I'm here to help my mother through this. It's a bit overwhelming and right in the middle of the holidays, but 'It is what it is" as my mother says - she's been through this quite a few times already and knows the routine.Mom's cat died last week. Stump had been in my mother's life since he was born and lived over 20 years. He spent the first 20 years of his life hiding under my mother's bed, only coming out for my mom. The past year I managed to befriend him - bribing him with treats and kindness. He spent the last year of his life somewhat sociable! I think he might have had some dementia - maybe he forgot to be afraid. In the end he was just skin and bones. He will be missed, but we really aren't sad that he is gone. He lived a long life.  Even though we've been pretty busy the last few weeks, we've taken some time to relax and enjoy the lovely Florida weather. December is almost always warm here. The other day we took some time to visit my father's grave. The cemetery is so peaceful, lots of huge moss covered oak trees line the lanes alongside the graves. My father died the day after Christmas 20 years ago, and this makes getting through the holidays difficult for my mother. Bay Pines Memorial Cemetery, St. Petersburg, FloridaWe took some time to sit along the water and feed the birds at the park. The Point at Bay Pines Memorial ParkWe head for the beach as often as we can to watch the sun set. I noticed that they added a few more benches at the beach we usually frequent. We are so blessed! Indian Shores, Florida I'm not so sure about New Year's resolutions.... it's difficult to plan that far into the future... one day at a time. Best wishes for a Merry Christmas to all of my friends, family and readers who celebrate. [...]

The Challenges of Traveling to/from Libya


When it was time to start planning our trip back to Florida there was so much planning to do. There were so many decisions and choices to make. The trip going to Libya had been difficult and there had been the unpleasant experience with the airline losing my bags. Even though the luggage wasfinally recovered (one bag after 18 days!) it was still a big hassle. I decided to fly a different airline - this time going via Tunis and Frankfurt on Lufthansa. It worked out being the cheapest flight too.But how to get to Tunis? Which airline should we use to fly out of Tripoli? I had flown Libyan Airlines and Afriqiyah in the past, but had only heard of Libyan Wings. There are a few other airlines but these three seem to be most popular - but which was the most reliable? I wanted to be on time and I most definitely did not want to have lost luggage again. I decided to throw out some  polls on social media to see what people thought. The results were quite surprising. Facebook Group PollThe poll on Facebook showed that the overwhelming majority found Libyan Wings the most reliable and there were some interesting comments that I will share here (without names)."Libyan Wings by far!! I have now flown on all three, and ONLY Libyan Wings actually leaves on time, and you queue properly at check in and to board the plane, there is no pushing and shoving, their food is WAY better than any of the others - and the attitude of the staff is professional at all times!! The first time in a long time that I have actually felt I am on an actual airline able to compete at international level - will never fly Libyan Airlines or Afriqiyah again!!!""None. Libyans have no sense of timing they just go with their flow. Let their planes take off when they feel like it. true they r up against the odds. And make do with what they have. Which is an excellent quality. But even before the war and during gadaffi times their track record was lousy""I tried all of them. Wings is hardly ever late and are quick to sort any problems" "Afriqiyah flight times are better for me. Wings is prompt but at ridicolous hours for me""Currently Libyan Wings . Experience wise i will go with Libyan Airlines , but for time and punctuality Libyan wings have the priority." "Well , for starters ! Libyan Arab Airlines (LAA), is Late As Always !""My last 3 experiences with them (Libyan Arab Airlines) I was delayed between 9 to 13 hours Afriquiya werent far behind""Have flown with them (Libyan Arab Airlines) a few times and never an issue. I guess it just depends, kind of like every other airline."Twitter PollThe poll on Twitter had similar results with Libyan Wings coming in first and Libyan Airlines and Afriqiyah both similarly low. The difference here was in the comments, with some being rather political."you need safety fly Libyan airlines ,have good maintenance ,don't compromise safety with commercial interests next Afriqiyah""well, remeber??wings owner is a former ALQAEDA member, &thy uses yr money to bombs&kill innocent ppl in #benghazi :)" "Libyan wings it's company was made to wash belhaj money it's illegal company" "So far, acqs. say Libya Wings is the most reliable/decent service/good planes. Pity abt the owner."With the results of the survey in mind, I decided to give Libyan Wings a try. Of the three airlines, only Libyan Wings allows you to book your tickets online. The only problem is that you cannot pay online, you have to go to one of their offices to do that. Still, this was helpful and booking the tickets took only a[...]

Learning a Lesson in Cultural Differences


In America when you go on vacation you might stop to pick up a few souvenirs and some postcards to send your friends and family. No one expects you to bring them back anything. If you do it's appreciated, but it's definitely not expected. It's different in Libya. Traditionally, when you have been traveling you should bring back gifts for your family and friends. You don't have to go overboard, something simple will suffice. Everyone expects something. Unfortunately, with the amount of relatives, even getting something small and inexpensive adds up - you have to consider the amount of money (the dollar very high now) and space in the suitcase (23 kilo limit). Over the years I've mostly dispensed with the gift giving with the exception of getting something for my mother in law - she always gets presents.This time, before I came back I asked her if there was anything she needed or wanted. She requested body lotion and hand cream. She said only cheap imitation toiletries were available in Libya and she didn't like or trust them. That was easy enough! I chose some brand named lavender scented creme and chamomile lotion - with the added bonus that they were on sale and I had a coupon. I added a few pairs of shoes and some other things I thought she might like and Ibrahim found a big cloth carry bag for groceries that he said would be perfect for carrying home bread from the bakery. Handmade soaps are all the rage these days in America. I picked some lavender out and added that to the bag - it smelled so good. Every travelers' nightmare... lost luggage. We arrived in Libya with just our carry on bags. All of our checked bags had decided to take a trip elsewhere. I filled in the necessary claim forms and hoped for the best. I apologized to my mother in law and told her she'd have to wait for her presents. She said it only mattered that we got here safely. Through a friend we managed to find a contact of someone that worked at the airport in Tunis. He'd look out for our bags and if he found them he would arrange to put them on a flight to Libya - for a price. That was fine, we just wanted the bags. Two of our bags appeared a few days later, but the bag with the gifts was still nowhere to be found. We suspected that it might have been stolen, but hoped for the best. I contacted the airline's website and heard nothing. Then decided to try Twitter and got an immediate response. I guess it doesn't look good to have anything negative on their Twitter feed. They followed up on the missing bag and finally, after 18 days the bag arrived. I'm happy to say nothing was missing. I was finally able to bring my mother in law her gifts. She was happy with the creams and lotions, the shoes I got her fit perfectly and the cloth bread bag would be put to good use. The last thing she looked at was the handmade soap. She examined the package and asked me what it was. 'It's handmade soap. People make it at home to sell in farmer's markets.' I told her. Her eyes widened in surprise. 'Why would they make soap? Are people that poor in America that they are making soap? Can't they afford to buy Camay, Dove or Oil of Olay?' she asked. She was so surprised. I tried to explain that people find handcrafted goods a kind of luxury. They like that it's something that someone made with care and attention, usually from simple, organic ingredients, unlike commercially made things that are full of chemicals. My mother in law didn't look convinced. She turned the package over and over in her hand. I told her '[...]

Not Enough Negative Adjectives or Expletives


It's taken me a few days to process the outcome of the US elections - lots of TV news to watch and articles to read on the Internet. Plenty to keep busy with on social media. Hillary won the popular vote, but Trump won the electoral vote. Many people are saying that the system should be changed and the vote should go with the popular vote. I noticed there were even some online petitions about it. For me, I would be happy if there was a requirement that every presidential candidate take and pass the FSOT - the Foreign Service Officers Test. I doubt Trump would be able to manage FSOT. There is an age limit that would have eliminated him right off the bat, but he doesn't have the brains for it. 

I've always felt that the president should be someone you looked up to. Someone dignified. Someone, that if you invited them to your home, would be considered an honored guest. Is Trump that person? Not for me. I don't think I'd even want him out in my back yard with the dog.  

The next four years will be interesting to say the least. 

What exactly am I doing here in Libya?


While I was away from Libya my cat Sandy took over my chair. She's saved my spot for a year. She doesn't want to move when I try to sit down so I sit on the edge of the chair. Eventually she gets up onto the desk and tries to interrupt me. She usually wins! How can I resist such a sweet kitty! 

I've sat  down a few times in front of my laptop and tried to write down my thoughts about life in Libya after being away. It's extremely difficult to come up with anything positive so I decided to wait and write about it later after I have time to process it all. 

What exactly have I been doing here? Well, I've spent most of my time at home with my family and pets. Visited a few friends and went to two family weddings. Sorted through things in the house. I'm getting paperwork and dental work done (cannot afford the dentist in the USA!). I'm taking lots of naps and watching lots of TV - especially the US election circus. 

Enough for today... time to snuggle with my kitty. 

Memoir | Libya. A Love Lived, A Life Betrayed - 9/36


Back in 2013, my friend Susan wrote a guest post on my blog. She shared an important message about her experience with Libyan inheritance laws. The post generated a huge amount of interest so in 2014 she wrote a follow-up post. Many people, myself included, urged her to write a book about her life. I'm happy to say that she took our advice and wrote her story.As a British woman, marrying a Libyan diplomat was the start of her adventure, little did she realize the complexity and intrigue she would live through for the next 33 years. Having lived through these times she decided to share her experiences and perspective on this period of Libyan history.The following excerpt has been published on my blog with the permission of the author. Information about where to purchase the book is below the excerpt.  Libya. A Love Lived, A Life Betrayed9/36By: Susan M. SandoverOne١9/36 is the end of the tale but the beginning starts with so many previous events that have had to be sealed in my memory box for safety. Many times I have wished that I could have kept a diary of the past 35 years, but the fear of my writings being found and incriminating the man I loved has always stopped my ever beginning. Even today when I have nothing to lose, all of those past years still haunt me.When I was asked recently in an interview what qualifications I believed that I had for working abroad, I felt a certain amount of frustration at the woman who had quite clearly not read my CV and was obviously just reading the next question on her formulaic list. In a probably rather inappropriate answer I responded that I had been bombed by the Americans, lived through two attempted coups, a major earthquake and two typhoons, lived under a dictatorship, through a revolution and a NATO bombing. A silence ensued for a few moments; I could see what was going through her mind, wondering if I was some kind of Walter Mitty character, and if what I had just said could be true? It was. What she had failed to notice in my eyes and tone of voice was that I am a survivor despite even 9/36 being hurled at me.At the tender age of four I went around the world with my parents, out via the Suez Canal and back through the Panama Canal. Although I can remember little if nothing of the journey it might have ignited my Christopher Columbus spirit since travelling from then onwards was in my bones; any chance, anywhere, I was game. But this story begins in 1980 when I was 32 and weaves between my flat in Frognal, North London and Freetown, Sierra Leone on the West Coast of Africa. The country was preparing to host an Organisation of African Union Summit (OAU) new hotels had been built and it was swarming with security experts and intelligence agents from Western, African and Arab countries. For my travelling companion Kathy and me it was a cheap winter holiday destination and if I were to believe in fate then certainly my destiny was decided when we set foot on the tarmac and on to the ferry taking us to Freetown that night.The capital was bubbling with frantic businessmen eager to capitalize on the many construction projects necessitated by the hosting of an international summit. We were two not unattractive young women out for some fun in the sun with little or no competition. Africa was a complete revelation to us with its noises, colours and heat being so very different from the suburban London where we had both grown up. The ubiquitous mu[...]

One step at a time


Sometimes it seems that things never change in Libya, or maybe there will be some progress and then something happens and all the progress is wasted. Personally, I've noticed that the best policy in Libya seems to be small, carefully placed steps that move forward a bit at a time. The result will be a big difference in the end. For the past few years one organization has been doing just that.

Libyan Women Economic Empowerment has been sponsored since 2013 by MEDA, an NGO based in Canada and the USA. They've been working with Libyan women who are either already established entrepreneurs or those who would like to set up their own businesses. By offering various workshops, support and networking opportunities to Libyan women they are making a big impact, not just on the women who are involved, but on the community as a whole. 

Last Saturday I attended their award ceremony in Tripoli. Substantial grants and awards were given to a variety of Libyan businesswomen from throughout Libya and from various sectors. I was so proud to see the enthusiasm that these ladies have for their work and for their support of each other. With one carefully placed step at a time, they are making a real difference in the lives of so many.

If you would like to get involved or learn more about LWEE, you can find their Facebook page here: and their website: